Marketing, PR & Advertising and Technology

Advertisers should focus on content

The concept of the captive audience is dead.

July 5, 2013
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It’s getting harder and harder to get people to sit through a commercial these days with second and even third screens readily available to television and online content watchers, as well as skip options and TiVo.

“The concept of the captive audience is dead,” said Vincent Boileau, video producer at Boileau Communications Management. “Even on TV and especially online, you just can’t hold people in their seats anymore; they are one click away from other content all the time.”

Technology has shifted the world of advertising and content is king.

Whirlpool recently noted its newest appliance campaigns are focusing on storytelling and connecting with an audience through shared-experience stories versus product features.

Boileau explained why this is a great way for advertisers to reach today’s less-than-captive audience.

“I think storytelling is really at the heart of human nature,” Boileau said. “There is something about narrative that is absolutely intriguing, and it draws you into a new space or into a particular piece of media.

“When information or advertising content is just thrown at you without any kind of structure, people tend to shy away from that, but people tend to engage a lot more in things that introduce that sense of narrative.

“When you start a video or watch any kind of piece of content online, if that content engages you into a story immediately, then you are very likely to finish it, and that is one of the things we’ve been seeing online and doing with our own clients.”

Boileau noted it’s not just about creating an engaging or relatable narrative. There are several factors advertisers should consider as they produce content-focused ads. He mentioned a book by Jonah Berger: “Contagious: Why Things Catch On.”

“It’s essentially a book about viral media — but not necessarily just online viral, even face-to-face talking,” Boileau said.

In addition to storytelling, Berger includes issues such as social currency, triggers, emotional engagement, moving the private into the public realm and practical value as factors that impact content’s potential for going viral.

“Things like social currency, the story or the media you watch gives you something to spend in conversation,” Boileau said. “You’ve got something interesting so you can lead the next conversation that you are in.

“Another one is triggers. The example he uses is Rebecca Black’s ‘Friday Song.’ If you look at the statistics for Rebecca Black’s ‘Friday Song’ on YouTube, there is an amazing spike every Friday, and it’s been that way since it came out. It’s just something that comes up when you think, ‘What day of the week is it? Oh, it’s Friday.’ The moment you said it’s Friday, that song just pops in your head. It doesn’t matter how bad it is.”

Advertisers should shift the money they save from not having to pay as much for paid placement advertising to creating engaging content, he said.

“Since you are not paying for placement, you are freed up to spend more of your budget on the actual creation of the content,” he said. “You are able to spend more time on the art of the content, on the intelligence of it, more time on the story development of it. You are literally competing with other content online.”

He noted that in today’s world of content saturation, the blockbuster competes with cat videos on YouTube.

Boileau warned that advertisers shouldn’t try to disguise advertising but just focus on making ads more appealing to watchers.

He named some of the best advertising he has seen recently.

“My top favorite video ad of all time is ‘Dollar Shave Club.’ … It’s an ad, but the way it works is that it is so overt about the way it is advertising to you that it is hilarious. They employ a lot of different shticks visually to add to it as they are walking through this warehouse.

“There is a spot called ‘Photoshop Live.’ It’s basically some guys who set up a poster, like they have at bus stops. They set up this poster as a screen and they are over in a van across the road, and when someone sits down at the bus stop, they take a photo of that person and then Photoshop that person doing something awesome as fast as they can, and then they put that image onto the poster so that person turns and sees themselves in the poster.

“It is a fun, interesting thing, and it is showing off the features and benefits of Photoshop. But it’s happening so fast, you aren’t really paying attention to the features; you are so enthralled by the prank.”

He also noted that Proctor & Gamble’s recent Olympics commercial, which was product free, was a great success for the brand. That’s because the company focused the commercial on the “best job ever” of being a mom and highlighted all the many things moms do for their kids. At the end of the commercial, the kids have grown up to become Olympic athletes.

“Ultimately, what happens is that they are creating respect and telling a story that everyone knows — the great mom story — and they are associating themselves with this story,” he said. “Because they are associating themselves with this story, they are positioning their brand as pro-moms, which is really an awesome place to be.”

Today’s advertising isn’t about the products as much as about the brand and the story the company is trying to tell about itself.

Advertisers have the opportunity to create content that can actually compete with entertainment-based content and will actually get someone to go online and find the ad everyone is talking about, he said.

There is no foolproof formula for making a viral video, but Boileau said focusing on a compelling story can certainly increase the odds of keeping viewers in their seats and watching a full 30-second ad.

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